Antiquity of Advaita Vedanta (was Re: An Open Letter to All)

Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Wed May 24 18:53:15 CDT 2000

On Wed, 24 May 2000, nanda chandran wrote:

> >"But perhaps Nagarjuna's negation is quite different from
>       ^^^^^^^
> >Upanishadic negation. The latter assumes the existence of an >inexpressible
> >essential substratum, and the main aim is to describe, by negation, an
> >absolute which cannot be expressed. The Madhyamika negations do not assume
> >an inexpressible essential >substratum, nor is their purpose to describe,
> >by negation, this reality, rather to deny that there can be such a
> >reality."
> Please underline the "perhaps" in this statement. So even this
> author is not sure.

And you want us to presume you are?

The words "but perhaps" are not used by Cheng as an admission of his doubt
in this regard, rather it is his way of modestly offering his opinion on
a subject in which he is a well-known professor.

> And I can quote numerous such "opinions"
> by other authors to refute this argument.

OK :-/

> I'm getting rather tired of this kind of argumentation. Please
> don't base your arguments on somebody else's conclusions, for
> we have no way to affirm the validity of those judgements. If
> you've independent arguments of your own to make based on the
> text of any of NAgArjuna's works, that'll be very useful. Else
> it is just a lot of useless handwaving, which as G.Murthy used
> to say will,"produce more heat than light".

I have read Nagarjuna's work "mUla madhyamaka kArikA." (David J.
Kalupahana gives the Sanskrit original with translation, though his
explanatory notes aren't very good). In each of the roughly 30 chapters in
his book, Nagarjuna examines an entity (e.g. kAla parIksha -- examination
of time) and concludes that the entity is shUnyaM (empty). Nagarjuna's
central thesis is "sarvaM idaM shUnyaM" (All this is empty), and nowhere
does he admit of an absolute. In fact, he appears to be saying the exact
opposite, "There is NO absolute"! This is a far cry from VedAnta, where
Brahman is declared to be an absolute within the first three verses of the
Brahma sUtras. Shankara makes this point perfectly clear in his BhAshhya.

Nagarjuna also makes a judgment stemming from experience, "All entities
are subject to causation." Again in stark contrast, VedAnta firmly upholds
Brahman as transcending causation.

> I'll just say one thing : without understanding the nature of
> the MAdhyamaka dialectic you cannot understand ShUnyatA. Most
> people directly take off on the "shUnya" or "empty" bit and
> start speculating as to why shUnya means this or that. Understand
> *why* he says the world is unintelligible (shUnya). It's not mere
> sophistry. It will take a lot of concentration and abstract
> thinking, to understand the MAdhyamaka dialectic. When you
> really understand the nature of the dialectic and the meaning of
> shUnya, it'll have a profound psychological effect on you. Then
> you who understands will know what has not been negated.

If you're referring to some mystical realization that you've had on
reading the kArikA, I would have to say, "No thank you, but I'm not
interested." I'm sure many others on this list share my feelings.


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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